The story of our family

The story of our family

Today we’d like to share the story of our family and how Zenana started. Our story started in 1930 when Mario, Anna’s father was born.

The beginning

Mario Moggia, born in 1930, left Italy in December 1952 with a job contract as a waiter in a hotel in Johannesburg. After changing various jobs, in 1956, he started working for a construction company specialized in laying steel pipes. In the same year, Maria worked as a clerk at the Italian Consulate’s ICE office in Johannesburg.

Maria and Mario’s paths crossed on a rainy day when Mario offered a ride to work to Maria and her sister, who were waiting for the bus. This happened when Mario was picking up a friend who had just arrived from Monterosso, his hometown. They married shortly thereafter in June 1957, continuing to live in Johannesburg until a cousin of Maria’s uncle called, announcing that a friend was looking for a couple to manage his luxury hotel in Platboom Bay in the Cape. Despite the modest pay, they decided to embark on this adventure together.

Despite challenges, including the birth of their daughter Anna in December 1958, the couple never stopped dreaming and working hard. After facing various job changes and saving as much as possible, in 1961, they decided to move to Pretoria. There, thanks to a series of fortunate events, they transformed a modest tyrum, a typical Greek coffee shop, into an innovative restaurant. It became the first restaurant in South Africa to make authentic Italian-style gelato. Mario, having gelato machines made by a refrigerator factory in Johannesburg, would sell gelato to other tyrum in the city after closing the restaurant each night.

The dream

Zenana story They stayed there for 10 years, facing tireless and hard work that made the restaurant nationally popular, with long waiting queues. But their dream of owning a house and having their private restaurant persisted. With the help of a friend, a real estate agent, they found the ideal property on a farm 13 km from Pretoria.

Initially, Mario didn’t even want to see it because he knew it was what he wanted, but the price was too high. However, the friend persisted, and eventually convinced Mario to visit, and it was love at first sight. The house, designed by a female architect, was a genuine gem. It was a large house immersed in a 120-hectare farm intended to host friends and relatives, small receptions, and parties. It had everything Mario and Maria wanted. They sold the restaurant license in Pretoria and bought the property.

Now, Mario and Maria had to transform this beautiful private house into a restaurant, and despite the challenges, they managed to obtain the license to turn it into their dream business. While waiting for the liquor license, they decided to go on vacation to Italy since they couldn’t proceed with the renovations.

Zenana storyAfter a few weeks, while they were on their trip, the news arrived that they had obtained the license, and the restaurant could open and serve alcoholic beverages. They decided to visit some of the best companies and artisan shops to buy everything needed for the new restaurant. They purchased furniture, chairs, and silverware, filling a container with items to be sent to South Africa.

Thus, in 1971, they opened the doors of Lombardy, a restaurant serving contemporary Italian cuisine with very few seats, in a beautiful location just outside Pretoria. Mario decided not to advertise, but soon, thanks to word of mouth and their reputation, the restaurant became renowned internationally.

People from all over the world came to eat at Lombardy, where there was a waiting list of about three months to get a table. Businessmen, bankers, statesmen, and actors lined up for a table at Mario and Maria’s restaurant. Their success lasted for 16 years, with many international recognitions, including having their menu featured in the first class of British Airways.

Zenana, a new beginning

In 1986, seeing the social changes in South Africa, they decided to lease the restaurant and move to Italy. In 1994, an opportunity arose, and they decided to sell the entire property, moving for half the year to Italy, where they lived a peaceful life until 2014 when illness struck Mario. After his death, Maria decided to sell everything remaining in South Africa and settle permanently in Italy with her daughter Anna, where they now manage Zenana, a boutique hotel in San Candido in the Dolomites.